Secular Humanism’s Awful Inhumanity

By Tom Gilson Published on April 12, 2018

You would think a movement calling itself “humanism” would promote human worth. You’d think it would distance itself respectfully from any movement that did the opposite.

You would think that, but you’d be wrong — at least in the case of secular humanism and the atheistic movement it aligns itself with.

I expect secular humanists would say Christians such as myself are the great offenders against human respect and dignity. We see ourselves, they say, as puny creations of a God who rules over all. We’re “sinners;” even “worms,” as one hymn puts it. We’re too weak to manage our own way in the world; we need a Father-figure to hold our hands. Above all we lack courage to face our own death without inventing a happy ending for ourselves — plus a “gotcha” for our enemies.

That makes us awfully small, doesn’t it? It would, except it’s all distorted. They’ve misunderstood Christianity badly, from their side of the ideological divide.

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Humanist Manifesto III

I’m going to let the American Humanist Association tell the first part of the story, through the movement’s third (and most current) Humanist Manifesto. It sounds uplifting enough: “Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity. … The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.”

What’s not to like about that?

Humanist ethics include “long[ing] for and striv [ing] toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.”

The problem — and it’s a huge one — is with secular humanism’s atheistic stance.

Again, what’s to complain about there? Not much — but everything.

The problem — and it’s a huge one — is with secular humanism’s atheistic stance.

No Human Choice. None.

Two popular atheist leaders, Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, insist that human free will is an illusion. That is, you and I literally cannot make any free choices. As the Humanist Manifesto III says, “Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.” Nature doesn’t make choices. It follows the laws of physics, and that’s it. You and I, being integral parts of nature, don’t get a pass. We have no freedom to choose anything. We think we do, but that’s all illusion.

How human is that?

Secular philosophers have argued that atheism means there’s no such thing as thinking.

No Human Thinking. None.

But it gets worse. Secular philosophers have argued that atheism means there’s no such thing as thinking.

You probably need a moment to catch your breath after reading that. Yet it’s also a pretty fair conclusion to reach, if secular humanism’s atheism is true.

The reasons are many, but I’ll stick with just one of them, the so-called “aboutness” problem. Alex Rosenberg is an atheistic professor of philosophy at Duke University. In his popular-level book An Atheist’s Guide to Reality, he asks us to think about Paris; then he wonders, What could it mean to say that your thoughts are about Paris? If your thoughts are purely physical reactions in your brain, then it must means some electrochemical something-or-other inside your brain is about Paris.

Now ask yourself a parallel question: Could a rock be about Paris? It could be in Paris, but what could it mean for a rock to be about Paris? It’s a meaningless concept. The rock is a physical object, and one physical object simply can’t be about anything at all. Physical objects don’t have “aboutness” relationships with other objects or (especially) ideas. Neither do physical processes, like, say, a snowfall or a fire.

But that applies to your brain as well, for everything in it is either a physical object or process — which means nothing in your brain can be about anything. Including the thoughts in your brain. That’s Rosenberg’s conclusion — and by the way, he’s right, if atheism is true.

Humanness Eliminated

I’ll come back to the obvious contradiction there in a moment. First though, let’s reflect on what secular humanism does to humanness. “Humanism” results in the elimination of human choice and human thought.

How human is that?

I could go on and on with other inhuman thoughts of the humanists and their atheist compadres. Princeton ethicist Peter Singer says we have a duty to avoid “speciesism.” We’re no different from any other animal, he says; in fact, an 18 month-old child has less mental power — and therefore less worth — than a chimp. Human rights are nothing special: a court in Colombia just gave the same rights to a river.

Again, how human is that?

No Escape From Humanness

I respect them for that. It’s just that their atheism completely undercuts it all.

Remember, humanists’ aspirations are high and in many ways noble. It’s just that their atheism undercuts it all. How can they hold to such a self-contradictory philosophy?

First, they are human; and no human can escape his or her humanness. We cannot choose to live as if choice is an illusion. We may think our way to the conclusion that no one can think their way to a conclusion, but in the process we still cannot avoid thinking. So no matter how clearly an atheist may reason his way to an inhuman conclusion, his humanness will prevail in the end.

Second, yes, their atheism is humanly impossible; still they prefer it to God — any God, even the gracious God of the Bible, whose supreme love gives us the real worth and dignity that an empty universe cannot.

Thomas Nagel, another prominent atheist philosopher, says it this way: “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” Years before him Aldous Huxley spoke his objections to any God who “interfered with our sexual freedom.”

Professing To Be Wise …

These are just two men. I doubt they speak for all humanists or all atheists. Or do they? Could it be that secular humanism exists because its followers want to avoid responsibility before God?

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23)

Remember Peter Singer? He hasn’t just brought God down to the level of birds and animals and creeping things. He’s brought you and me down there, too. Professing to uplift humanity, secular humanism’s atheism degrades it to the level of the animals, and even the rocks.

Secular humanists want uplift human worth, but they fail to do so. Professing to be wise, they have become fools.

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